Naknek River AK

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oldranger
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Naknek River AK

Post by oldranger » Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:04 am

Took my daughters up to Naknek River Camp in Alaska. This is a no-frills camp on a river that feeds into Bristol Bay--probably the richest sockeye fishery in the world. The cabins are basic but ours had a flush toilet and shower--not all cabins do. The camp provides meals and guides and a basic trip includes a boat ride to Brooks Falls where you can watch Alaskan Brown Bears (overgrown griz) catch sockeye in midair as they leap the falls. A little longer trip by boat will take you to the mouth of Margo Creek on Naknek Lake where we caught dolly varden char, one big chum, and a couple of 25 inch rainbows.
But as we were near the end of the sockeye run (with just another 500,000 to a million more due up the river) we decided to focus on sockeye the first two days so that we could get them vacuum sealed and frozen to bring home. The 30 we kept yielded at least 60 lbs of filets which is all we could (and wanted to) bring home.
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The last hour of fishing the second day was catch and release for the sockeye, which are not only the best tasting salmon in my opinion but also more often put on an aerial display than even rainbow. A couple of the big ones got out in the current and took off for Bristol Bay and we had to break them off before we got spooled. The first day we used spinning rods we brought but on the second day two of us started using 8 or 9 weight fly rods, using the same technique as the spinning rod but the fly line gave me just a bit more control of the "chuck and duck" method of fishing for fish that were passing no more than 10 feet in front of us.

The third day we targeted king salmon but I caught a small chum, a 20" rainbow, and 2 "jacks" that were about 25" long--much bigger than the 18" jacks that I have caught in Oregon. FYI a jack is a king that spends just one year in the ocean before becoming prematurely sexually mature and returning to spawn. Number 1 daughter decided she would rather fish than eat lunch and it paid off with about a 15 lb king.
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The 4th day was our turn to take the run to brooks Falls where after about a mile hike we were mesmerized for and hour watching a dozen or so bears feeding on the migrating salmon.The attachment
As we headed away from the secure observation area and into the area we shared with the bears we found ourselves trailing a bear by about 30 yards soon it rounded a corner and out of sight soon after that we met people walking toward us but they did not see the bear. We know we must have passed very close to it as it moved off the trail. We then hiked up the road to Brooks lake and fly fished about 50 yards of the upper Brooks River just below the outlet of the lake. We each caught a couple of small rainbows but nothing special except they were the first fish the ladies had ever caught fly fishing.
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Day 5 involved the longer boat ride to Margo Creek. Here we caught several dolly varden char while # 1 caught a big chum
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and #2 and I both caught 25" rainbows on spinning gear.
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Then I decided what the h--- lets splurge and do a fly in the next day. So we had to abandon our trusted guide for a younger, much smaller, guide (at least 100 lbs lighter than our guide the previous 5 days) which made the pilot much happier. So our last day of fishing was a flight to a small pond a 20 minute walk to Contact Creek. just before landing we saw two young bears scampering around the hillside above the creek. Just a small sample of what was to come. Shortly after reaching the creek I hooked and lost a nice chum. I was now using my own 5 weight fly rod but still using the basic "chuck and duck" technique with nothing more than a little lead about 18" up from a bare hook with a single bead on the line that slid down to the hook. Soon the fishing got crazy and we were into large numbers of char. Poor Max the guide was running up and down the creek netting fish. Finally I told him to relax and just focus on the women. I started just pulling the fish near the bank and reaching down with my needle nose plyers to release the fish. then a mama bear with two cubs showed up across the creek from us--not more than 15 yards away. Mama really wanted to fish where we were fishing but we shooed her away (I also had to break off a fish when she showed up or she would have been right after it when I got it to shore). An interesting thing is that if you and a few others are together and a mother with cubs arrive she will generally move on to protect her cubs. But you wouldn't want to do anything that could be interpreted as aggression toward the cubs. But it sure seemed a bit silly to have 500 lbs of people saying "go away bear" to a 600 lb beast. A little bit later a boar came wandering up the creek on the same side as we were. But it disappeared and we may not have seen it again. Then another smaller mama bear showed up with 2 cubs, this time on the other side of the creek, and it sure looked like she wanted one of the big chums the women were trying to catch in the last pool we were to fish that day. But again she moved on after a couple of "go away bear" exclamations. Each daughter managed to catch a chum in addition to many char.
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I also managed about a 10" grayling
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and a 12" rainbow in addition to more char than I have fingers and toes (yes I have my full complement!). The hike out was much longer than the hike into the creek because the pond the plane landed in to drop us off was too small to take off from with a full load. So we had about a 2 mile walk over squishy tundra and, of course we had to detour as a big boar bear was laying right in the trail out. I was a little concerned as I was last in line as we got past the bear and to make matters worse I couldn't run even to save my life! But a bear full of salmon and char apparently has little interest in consuming a tottering old septuagenerian. The flight out ended what was the fishing trip of a lifetime, except I reserved a spot at the camp for a week next year. Told my daughters they were welcome to join me but they were going to have to come up with a good portion of the cost of the trip.

Before leaving for the trip the plan was that after a week that the next time I came I would do the Self Guided option. After fishing with guide and navigating the river, another creek and a huge lake I decided that it would be more prudent to have a guide. I know that the guide at least doubled our fishing time and even with the water being very high navigating both the river and the lake exceeded my level of competence. All the boats used on the river had jet pumps and the larger boats used on the lake had seriously battered props-- so even those that know the water have issues from time to time.

Epilogue--After returning home I had a Doctors Appointment and in the waiting room I opened up the June/July edition of Field and Stream--there was a full page photo that really looked familiar. Then I thought that has to be the lake where the plane landed to pick us up after fishing Contact Creek. Then I read the photo caption, "Contact Creek, Alaska."
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Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!






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oldhikerQ
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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by oldhikerQ » Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:24 am

Great trip report and photos, oldranger.
Thanks for sharing.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by rightstar76 » Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:46 am

If you mean this lake, wow!
https://www.magzter.com/preview/4977/278126#page/2

Mike, you are a lucky guy. :) You and your daughters are fortunate to have enjoyed such a wonderful adventure. That picture of Brooks Falls with the bears - amazing!

I also find sockeye to be tastier than King Salmon. Have never had the privilege of catching it in the wild. That would be a trip of a lifetime. Glad you and your family had fun.

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neil d
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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by neil d » Thu Aug 16, 2018 12:43 pm

So great! Can you share the outfit you went with? I want this trip.

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maverick
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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by maverick » Thu Aug 16, 2018 2:55 pm

Great that you could spend time with your daughters Mike, family time in the wilderness is the best time!!! :nod:
boat ride to Brooks Falls
I am jealous.
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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by oldranger » Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:26 pm

Neil, Naknek River Camp. If you get on their website they also have a more luxurious lodge a few miles downstream. But that adds about $500 per 6 days of fishing. I chose this place because of the sockeye fishing. Going a week earlier next year so will be in the heart of the sockeye run plus better chance of hooking and releasing a big king. Buying myself an 8 weight fly rod and really good fly reel for my next trip. Try last week of June first two weeks of July for best sockeye and king fishing. You will still be able to catch a few chums, rainbow, and grayling. Optimal gear for fishing would be 8 weight fly rod, 5 weight fly rod, 81/2 ft 10-30 lb spinning rod with spinning reel capable of 20 lbs drag or better and 180 yards 30 lb braid. I had a blast with 6-12 lb. 8 1/2 foot spinning rod and reel loaded with 20 lb braid fishing for sockeye and char and trout caught on day 5. Fishing with too small hooks results in lots of lost fish. I cut down on lost fish when I went to size 2 octopus hooks with single bead an inch above the hook. Fyi the base guided trip is about 3500 plus guide tips and airfare to King Salmon. Flyins are extra. If you do your research on various lodges you will find this the best deal for the variety of experience. If you were to go in August your target fish would be Silvers and pinks, rainbow, char, and grayling.
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!

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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by Harlen » Thu Aug 16, 2018 3:54 pm

Great Trip!
Congratulations on yet another Alaska trip.

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gary c.
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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by gary c. » Fri Aug 17, 2018 2:22 am

What a great trip you had. Thanks for taking us along with you.
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oldranger
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Re: Naknek River AK

Post by oldranger » Sat Oct 06, 2018 8:27 am

rightstar76 wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:46 am
If you mean this lake, wow!
https://www.magzter.com/preview/4977/278126#page/2

Mike, you are a lucky guy. :) You and your daughters are fortunate to have enjoyed such a wonderful adventure. That picture of Brooks Falls with the bears - amazing!

I also find sockeye to be tastier than King Salmon. Have never had the privilege of catching it in the wild. That would be a trip of a lifetime. Glad you and your family had fun.
yep that was exactly the pic I saw!
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!

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